Georgia - Birthplace of cheese as well?
13 November, 2014
Georgia - Birthplace of cheese as well?
On November 8th, Expo-Georgia hosted a cheese exhibition. Georgian cheese is one of the oldest food products in the world. Nobody argues anymore that Georgia is the birthplace of wine but the latest discoveries may acknowledge that our homeland is the birthplace of cheese as well. Cheese jars and milk vessels as well as some ritual figures made of cheese that date back to VI-IV millennia B.C. have been discovered in Georgia. Such discoveries popularize Georgian cheese and the restoration
of types of cheese that were lost centuries ago. This may enable Georgian cheese to become established in Europe.

The cheese-lovers could taste and buy different types of cheese, participate in the process of cheesemaking and watch the process of making of Elarji and Tashmabaji by specialists.
At this year’s festival, every region of Georgia presented about 60 types of cheese including some rare and unusual kinds about which the majority of Georgians had never heard before. Among them, Dambal-Khacho (soaked cottage-cheese), Muchli, Guda, Chechili, Chogi, Tenili, Narchvi, Lagujishi, Sulguni, Berqeizi, cheese kept in honey and wine, cheese rolls stuffed with Beshumuri, Chachamodebuli, goat-milk cheese, etc. Many of these varieties date back several centuries.
All in all there are about 180 types of cheese known in Georgia. Many of them are not produced today. Only the recipes are preserved.
One could observe a special gathering of guests at the Guda cheese stand. Everybody was keen to learn how this unique cheese was made. We, the guests of the festival, requested that the host, Grandpa Tedo reveal the secret:
“100 years ago, the Guda cheese of Tusheti was made out of milk without removing the cream. Thanks to this it was distinguished for its fatness and it was very delicious. Unfortunately, sometimes this obligatory condition isn’t observed today. Traditionally, the skin for keeping cheese was made out of sheepskin and the Tushetians skinned the sheep in a special way, not cutting its belly, contrary to ‘butcher-skinning.’ Then they inserted a Y-shaped stick inside in order to keep the skin stretched and dried it. Later, for making the ‘guda,’ the skin for keeping cheese, they shaved the wool and soaked the skin, glue the cut places and tied the legs with a rope, leaving the fat-tail part open for putting the cheese in. Then they turned the skin inside out, in order to have the hairy part inside, and the ‘guda’ is ready. This is what gives the Guda cheese its specific smell.”
Then grandpa Tedo stopped and gave us his cheese to taste. Noticing our appreciation he continued:
“If you publish everything in your newspaper, everybody will learn how to make this cheese, so I’ll keep something back.”
The festival organizers also managed to see to the ‘chadi’ (maize-bread) lovers. This type of bread is mostly eaten together with cheese and in the exhibition halls you could have maize bread as well as hot ‘shoti’ or wheat bread. Chadi is made from maize flour. It’s interesting to note that despite the fact that maize isn’t a native Georgian crop – it was introduced to Georgia in the medieval centuries – ‘chadi’ is considered to be one of the most appealing dishes of Georgian cuisine.

The Guda (cheese kept in sheep-skin) has holes and the middle part of it has yellowish glitter. This yellowness is an indication that it is made from natural milk without removing the cream. The yellowish-greenish color is an indication that it is made from sheep’s milk. With the help of this we can visually differentiate it from the cow’s milk cheese, the middle part of which has no greenish color. In summer Guda cheese is considered to be outdated. The fresh cheese arrives from the mountains in autumn when the shepherds bring the sheep to the plains.

Photo: Nikusha Vasadze

Related story:

Cheese festival in Tbilisi – Representing 80 centuries of Georgian cheese making

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